TOWN councillors have slammed proposals to close Ryedale libraries.

Both Malton and Pickering town councils have called on North Yorkshire County Council to maintain existing services.

Malton councillors have also rejected the idea of creating a joint library with Norton at the former Stanley Harrison House near the railway station.

Mayor Coun Jason Fitzgerald-Smith told last week’s council meeting that Malton library was well used, especially by young people who, he believed, could be at risk if a proposal to create a new library went ahead.

He added that children would have to cross the railway line to get to the new library.

Coun Paul Andrews added that they would also have to cross the county bridge because of access restrictions to the site.

“I strongly oppose the closure of either Malton or Norton libraries, and/or the merger of both libraries to a location at Malton station,” he said.

“I do not accept the argument that it is inappropriate to keep two libraries open which are within less than a mile of each other. There are many urban libraries in other parts of the country which are situated as close and which are not destined to close.

“Further, access from one town to the other is restricted by the railway crossing and the bridge across the river.”

Coun Andrews added that Norton needed its library for local people and particularly for the primary schools.

“Both Malton and Norton libraries are located within the commercial limits of either town and serve their town centres,” he said.

“I strongly believe that to take either library out of the existing commercial limits of the existing town centres will further weaken the town centres themselves.

“People who include a library visit in their weekly shop will be less inclined to use local shops if the libraries are taken away or moved to another location.”

The council is to send a plea to North Yorkshire County Council that the library should be retained at its present town centre location.

Members of Pickering Town Council have also urged the county council to rethink the closure proposals.

Town clerk Andrew Husband said they were appalled and horrified by the plans.

He said: “The council has urged the county council to rethink the plan because it not only involves closing a number of static libraries, but also the loss of many mobile libraries which serve remote rural areas.”

The county council has set up a £650,000 fund to create more time for reshaping the county’s library service.

North Yorkshire needs to save about £2 million from its library budget over the next four years, with the greatest savings having to be made in the first two years due to Government policies.

Councillors said the consultation on cuts so far showed the public felt they should be shared by all libraries. The one-off fund will buy more time for libraries to remain open until communities can put forward proposals.